NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 29, 2007

As California nears voting on a bill to implement statewide universal health insurance, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should heed the warning issued in a new study by the Fraser Institute on the consequences of implementing a Canadian-style health insurance system.

According to Brett Skinner, Director of Health, Pharmaceutical and Insurance Policy Research at the Fraser Institute, and author of the study, there are many problems with the Canadian system:

  • Universal care only appears to cost less in Canada because public health insurance does not cover many advanced medical treatments and technologies commonly available in America.
  • Canadian patients do not get the same quality or quantity of care as American patients -- on a comparable basis, Canadians have fewer doctors, less high-tech equipment, older hospitals and receive fewer advanced medicines.   

Another problem with Canada's health system is the lengthy waiting times for treatment, says Skinner:

  • Canadians currently wait an average of almost 18 weeks between the time they see their family physician and the time they receive treatment from a specialist.
  • Statistics show that among patients who received health-care services in 2005, 11 percent waited longer than three months to see a specialist.
  • 17 percent waited longer than three months to get necessary non-emergency surgery.
  • 12 percent waited longer than three months to get necessary diagnostic tests.

But perhaps most significantly for California, the study shows that the Canadian system is not financially sustainable in the long run.  There is a growing consensus among government and private-sector researchers in Canada that because public spending on health care is growing so much faster than public revenue, every one of Canada's 10 provinces is on a path to fiscal distress.

Source: "Think tank advises Schwarzenegger to use veto and avoid Canadian-style health insurance system," Fraser Institute, May 29, 2007.


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